The Salt Lake Tribune’s Robert Gehrke on the gondola

Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo by Salil Bhatt.

Despite massive public opposition and numerous alternative suggestions, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has released a decision that includes constructing an eight-mile long, 22 towers measuring 200 feet high, gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon. 

The Salt Lake Tribune published an extremely well-written in-house op-ed by Robert Gehrke on the gondola. Gehrke’s op-ed, titled “We’ll build a $728 million gondola so the rich can play. It’s The Utah Way,” echos UPHE’s sentiment on the decision. 

Gehrke hit’s the major criticisms of the gondola option. He writes of the lack of alternative solution exploration, “But what else were we supposed to do? We had tried practically nothing else — no more buses, no tolling, no carpooling requirements. Tolling and expanded bus service, both of which were discussed for years and could have eased the congestion and forestalled the need for the gondola, will finally be implemented two years from now.”

 “So we will build it. All of us. We will pony up to help construct this engineering marvel. It doesn’t matter if you live in Brigham City and have never strapped on a ski in your life, or if you are from Ogden and would prefer to hit the slopes at Snowbasin, or if you’re from Salt Lake City and can’t afford a roof over your head, or if you’re from Kanab and are wondering if you’ll have water five years from now,” Gehrke wrote, addressing the use of taxpayer money to fund the project

The gondola is essentially a subsidy for the two ski resorts up the canyon, Alta and Snowbird. It will not solve traffic problems, because as Gehrke points out, there are various recreational users of the canyon outside of the resorts. But it will allow the resorts to cram even more people on the slopes. “If you prefer to enjoy the canyon other ways, maybe camping, cycling or hiking, or maybe you’re a rock climber who will see some prized areas impacted, don’t be bitter about the 200-foot-tall towers and the miles of cable and the cars with people looking down on you, figuratively and literally”

The public input process is severely flawed. Utah needs legislation and legislators that are there to represent public values. The vast majority of the public values the natural beauty and plentiful recreation opportunities of the canyon and opposes the gondola. 

Find Robert Gehrke’s full op-ed here.